COLUMBUS – State Reps. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo), Mike Sheehy (D-Oregon), and Lisa Sobecki (D-Toledo) expressed disappointment today after Governor Mike DeWine decided to issue a waiver of his public health orders for political rallies, including an upcoming presidential rally in Toledo on Monday.


“It is unfortunate that just days after Toledo Express Airport's name was officially re-dedicated to honor a man of science, NASA Mission Control legend and Toledoan Eugene F. Kranz, our Governor ignores science and sound judgment by waiving the COVID-19 guidelines,” said Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson. “On balance, our right to life and liberty requires implementing safety standards and rules with the cooperation of all.”


While the Representatives all agree that protecting the First Amendment right to freedom of speech is of the upmost importance, it seems inconsistent to say that mask mandates and social distancing undermine that right. The DeWine administration has previously issued a mask mandate on church attendance, as well as limitations on the size of other gatherings, presumably also protected by the First Amendment. The Representatives also believe that these science-based orders do not fundamentally hinder a campaign’s right to freedom of speech.


“Since the pandemic began, Lucas County has confirmed the fifth most COVID-19 cases in Ohio. Fortunately, the precautions outlined in the Governor’s public health orders have worked, and coronavirus cases in Lucas County have trended downward since the end of July. It is disappointing that the Governor has waived the statewide public health orders for the upcoming presidential rally,” said Rep. Sheehy.


“Over the past few months, Lucas County residents have practiced social distancing, worn masks outside of the home, and slowed the spread of COVID-19. Doing so has allowed us to be downgraded from red to orange on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System. Unfortunately, now the upcoming rally next week, without appropriate health guidelines in place, threatens all of that progress,” said Rep. Sobecki. “I’m disappointed that the Governor waived requirements to wear masks in public, maintain social distance, and cap the number of attendees allowed inside the venue. Throughout the country, there have been Americans who have gotten sick, or died from COVID-19 as a result of attending political rallies without reasonable precautions. It’s a shame that the Governor, who led early on in this pandemic, is faltering and jeopardizing people’s health.”


Reps. Hicks-Hudson, Sheehy, and Sobecki call on Governor DeWine to reconsider the waiver he granted to political rallies given that it is clear in this instance that campaigns will not be universally enforcing COVID-19 precautions, such as mandatory mask wearing and social distanced attendees, on their own recognizance.


In addition to the event in Toledo, there will also be a stop in Montgomery County, which Governor DeWine has said he will attend. Montgomery County is presently listed as red on the Ohio Public Health Advisory System, and has the tenth most cases of COVID-19 per 100,000 statewide.


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Ahead Of National Black Voter Day, OLBC Calls For Action To Eliminate Systemic Barriers To Voting
Call comes as Senate considers GOP election bill that would create new voting restrictions
September 17, 2020
 
 

COLUMBUS –Ahead of the first-ever National Black Voter Day on Sept. 18, Ohio Legislative Black Caucus (OLBC) issued a statement calling for action to eliminate systemic barriers to voting in Ohio. The call comes as the Ohio Senate considers House Bill (HB) 680, the GOP election bill that would create new voting restrictions like shortening the time for voters to request absentee ballots, eliminating the ability for the secretary of state to prepay return postage for ballot materials, and barring the Health Director and other officials from affecting the conduct of elections—even in the interest of public health.


“Black voters today continue to face systemic barriers to voting, barriers which have only been exacerbated in the current COVID-19 pandemic. Decisions from the Secretary of State, such as not allowing multiple secure drop boxes or online applications for absentee ballots, disenfranchise Black Ohioans. There is a lot of work to be done to ensure that crises like the current COVID-19 pandemic, economic recession and calls for racial justice are addressed properly for all communities, but especially for Black communities. We must ensure that the voices of Black Ohioans are heard as we propose solutions to these crises— that starts with implementing meaningful policies to make voting more accessible for all,” said OLBC President Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland).


The GOP elections bill stands in stark contrast to HB 687, the House Democrats’ general elections proposal, which would expand online registration, make it easier for Ohioans to vote by mail, and protect in-person voting opportunities amid the coronavirus pandemic.


House Democrats have also continued to call on Secretary of State Frank LaRose to do everything in his power to make voting more accessible for voters in these unprecedented times. On Aug. 18, the caucus provided LaRose a 16-point checklist of what they would like to see from his office, including:


·         Multiple secure drop boxes


·         Paying return postage


·         Keeping all polling locations open


·         Online absentee ballot application


Below are also some important dates to remember for this election.


·         Sept. 18: Military early voting starts/National Black Voter Day


·         Oct. 5: Voter registration deadline


·         Oct. 6: Early voting starts for everyone


·         Oct. 31 by NOON: Deadline to request an absentee ballot


·         Nov. 2: Postmark absentee ballot if returning by mail


·         Nov. 3 by 7:30 p.m.: Submit absentee ballot to BOE if returning in person


·         Nov. 3, in-person voting from 6:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m.: Election Day


 


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COLUMBUS –House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) today issued a statement following Governor Mike DeWine’s creation of a new dashboard for parents and caregivers that provides information about cases, hospitalizations and deaths among Ohio’s children. DeWine today referred to the statistic that Black children make up 45% of all COVID-19 hospitalizations but only 18% of the population as “troubling.”


“What is troubling to me is that the governor created a Minority Health Strike Force and it has yet to strike nearly five months after is creation. Instead, COVID-19 ravages our Black communities and schools and our Black babies are disproportionately infected, hospitalized and dying while his Strike Force still does nothing. But at least he has the dashboard now so we can all watch the chaos, destruction and heartbreak in real time.


Pointing out statistics and calling them ‘troubling’ is easy. Saying ‘racism is a public health crisis’ during a press conference is simple. The hard work comes from real leadership that actually seeks to fix these very real societal problems that have existed for far too long and this pandemic has simply laid bare for all to see.


DeWine’s continued delay in action to help our Black communities is leading to preventable infection and death. Enough is enough. Do something!”


DeWine announced the creation of the Minority Health Strike Force April 20 and appointed Leader Sykes, who holds a Masters of Public Health and a Juris Doctor from the University of Florida, as one of its 41 members.


“The slogan ‘in this together Ohio’ evokes a sense of shared struggle, of sacrifice and of commitment to one another. But the reality is that since the onset of this pandemic—and for the greater part of a generation or more—Black and Brown families have seen the worst of it,” Sykes wrote in a letter to DeWine May 12. “Racial equity must be more than a talking point. It needs to be an action point for your administration.”


Democrats have called on the governor to act on minority heath disparities since the onset of the pandemic.


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COLUMBUS— State Representative Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo) responded today to developments in a lawsuit against Secretary of State Frank LaRose about his limiting all Ohio counties to one ballot drop box per county. Yesterday, a Franklin County judge declared LaRose’s actions “arbitrary” and “unreasonable,” but Sec. LaRose continued to instruct counties they could have no more than one drop box. The court has now ordered LaRose to answer for himself by today at 3 p.m. 


“Secretary LaRose is not honoring his word. First, he says he supports expanded drop boxes but he orders counties not to expand drop boxes. Next, he says – to a federal court – that he will abide by a state court order to expand drop boxes. But with that order in hand, he ignores it, disparages the judge, and continues to order all counties not to expand drop boxes.


This kind of lawless behavior is something we are used to from the White House. It’s sad to see our state’s chief election officer engaging in the same partisan games, disrespect of judges, and breaking his own promises. We will see what he has to say for himself back in court.”

 
 
  
 
House Dems: "We Should Be In Session Right Now"
Say there's too much work left undone amid ongoing crises for House GOP to cancel session again
September 15, 2020
 
 

COLUMBUS –House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) participated in a virtual press conference with other House Democratic lawmakers to discuss legislative solutions that are needed as the state faces multiple unprecedented crises. The Ohio House was scheduled to meet for an if-needed House session today, but Speaker Robert Cupp canceled this session on Friday, Sept. 11.


“Today could have been a day where the Ohio House addressed the needs of the state of Ohio. A day where we came together to offer solutions toward recovery from COVID, and the economical fall out from it, but instead it’s another day where republican leadership has refused to put the needs of our state before their own,” said Leader Sykes. “For those of you keeping track, it has been 173 days since the Ohio House passed comprehensive legislation to address COVID-19. House Democrats have been calling for months now for us to get back to work. We keep saying, coronavirus isn’t taking a recess and neither should we!”


“As someone who works in public health, I know bringing the spread of COVID-19 under control is the solution to Ohio’s full economic recovery. The effective mitigation of a viral outbreak takes planning, it takes outreach and it takes leadership,” said Rep. Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington). “Thus far, House Republicans have been ineffective, obstinate and downright derelict in their leadership during this unprecedented time.”


“On behalf of all of those who are still struggling and need help, we renew our call to the Speaker and Senate President to bring the General Assembly back soon to address the many unresolved issues that remain legislatively with this pandemic. We have another if-needed session date next week and we hope Speaker Cupp will use the time that has been set aside more productively than he has this week,” said Rep. Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati).


 


The decision to cancel comes after Speaker Cupp abruptly ended House session on Sept. 2 after Democrats planned to offer several measures to repeal House Bill (HB) 6, the multi-billion corporate bailout bill at the center of an ongoing FBI criminal investigation into an alleged $60 million racketeering and bribery scheme led by former Republican Speaker Larry Householder. Former Speaker Larry Householder and several associates were arrested and indicted for their roles in the alleged corruption scheme.                      


“It has been 56 days since we learned about the largest bribery scandal in Ohio history involving the passage of HB 6. Unique only in its size and brazenness, this unfortunately continues the culture of corruption in the Republican caucus that has produced 4 speakers in 2 and a half years. Now Republican leadership is blocking our numerous attempts to repeal HB 6. There are 58 cosponsors of two repeal bills, more than enough for passage. Republican leadership should stop protecting HB 6 – we need to show that Ohio is not for sale!” said Rep. David Leland (D-Columbus).


House Democrats have put forth multiple efforts to quickly repeal HB 6 in order to help restore the public’s trust in the legislature, and have called the creation of this Select Committee an unnecessary stall tactic by House Republicans. On Aug. 11, House Democratic leadership, including Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron), Assistant Minority Leader Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus), Minority Whip Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo) and Assistant Whip Rep. Richard Brown (D-Canal Winchester) filed a protest of the passage of House Bill 6 due to the serious allegations of bribery and pay-to-pay politics that were involved in the deliberations and passage of the bill. On Aug. 28, Democrats announced they would file a discharge petition to bring bipartisan legislation to repeal HB 6 to the floor for a vote during session on Sept. 1.  House Republicans aggressively worked to thwart the effort by requiring that signatures be done in person and not electronically like all other legislation in an attempt to keep the bill from being brought to the floor in a timely manner. Then on Sept. 1 when Speaker Robert Cupp (R-Lima) and House Republicans abruptly ended House session as Democrats readied to offer several amendments to repeal HB 6 on the floor. The session ended before making it even halfway through the scheduled calendar—an unprecedented move intended to block Democratic efforts to repeal HB 6.


House Democrats also pointed out the obstructionist tactics of Republican Secretary of State Frank LaRose to suppress the vote for the upcoming November election. Yesterday, House Dems slammed LaRose and GOP lawmakers for refusing to fund absentee ballot postage and pointed out that the Secretary does not require legislative approval to make the general election more accessible during a pandemic. House Democrats have consistently called on Sec. LaRose to use existing funds to pay for postage if the legislature fails to address it.


“We saw what can happen last March if we go into an election unprepared,” Rep. Hicks-Hudson said. “Ohioans know that the global pandemic and an overwhelmed Postal Service threatens our right to vote and unfortunately, Republicans have made very few steps towards preventing a similar disaster from happening again in November.” 


A recording of the virtual press conference can be found here.


 

 
 
  

COLUMBUS – House Democrats slammed GOP lawmakers on the Controlling Board Monday for refusing to approve funds to cover the cost of absentee ballot postage for Ohio voters ahead of the November election.


“Republicans have repeatedly made it clear that they are not interested in making this general election as accessible as possible during a pandemic,” said House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron). “But as Democrats have continued to point out, the Secretary of State does not need additional legislative approval to make this happen. We urge Sec. LaRose to use existing federal funds to ensure Ohioans have access to absentee ballots this fall.”


House Democrats have consistently called on Sec. LaRose to use existing funds to pay for postage if the legislature fails to address it.


While the Controlling Board voted down the request for prepaid postage funding, lawmakers approved a number of other significant items Monday:



  • $2 million in previously allocated funds to the Development Services Agency for the Minority Business Enterprise Loan program;

  • $34.8 million to from the federal CARES Act to the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction to expand COVID-19 testing and other safety measures in prisons;

  • $36.8 million in previously allocated funds to the Bureau of Worker’ Compensation for the continued purchasing of face coverings for Ohio workers.


“We owe it to Ohioans to provide resources for a safe and accessible election during this pandemic,” said Rep. Jack Cera (D-Bellaire), who is a member of the Controlling Board.


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COLUMBUS— State Rep. Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland) responded to today’s refusal by the state Controlling Board to grant the Secretary of State’s last minute request for additional authority to pay return postage for absentee ballots. Sec. LaRose recently mailed absentee ballot applications to registered Ohio voters without including return postage. Sweeney has been urging LaRose for months to use the existing authority of his office to pay return postage for both ballot applications and absentee ballots.


“People shouldn't have to pay to vote. That might be straightforward to most Ohioans, but it isn’t to the Republican supermajority in Columbus. While I’m deeply disappointed in today’s party-line decision, we saw this coming a mile away,” said Rep. Sweeney. “Ohio has a Secretary of State who talks a good game to the press about doing the right thing, but who often seems to find an excuse not to do it. Either he made up yet another excuse not to make voting easier, or he utterly failed to convince a few of his fellow Republicans not to run the typical GOP voter suppression playbook. In any case, he should pay return postage for voters' ballots right now using his existing authority without scapegoating the state Controlling Board.”


TIMELINE: Events concerning return postage and the state Controlling Board:


June 15 – Controlling Board gave Sec. LaRose broad approval to spend federal CARES Act funds on Ohio election amid pandemic.


June 18 – Democrats call for Sec. LaRose to pay return postage for applications and ballots. 


July 21 – Sec. LaRose testified in support of House Bill 680, a bill to prohibit him from paying return postage for applications and ballots.


Week of Aug. 12 - Democrats made multiple demands of Sec. LaRose to stop playing politics and provide voters with return postage for their absentee materials.


Aug. 18 – Sec. LaRose submitted a late request to the Controlling Board for a second approval to pay for return postage – for ballots only, not applications.


Aug. 24 – The Controlling Board declined to hear Sec. LaRose’s request.


Sept. 1 – Sec. LaRose continued the longstanding practice of mailing ballot application forms to registered voters – he did not include return postage.


Sept. 8 – The Controlling Board added Sec. LaRose’s request to its agenda for Sept. 14.


Sept. 14 – The Controlling Board denied additional approval to pay return postage for Ohioans’ absentee ballots.


Sept. 15 - Sec. LaRose should implement paid return postage immediately using existing authority of his office. 


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COLUMBUS –House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) today issued a statement following reports that Governor Mike DeWine’s new health director Dr. Joan Duwve withdrew her acceptance hours after it was announced because she learned of the “harassment” Dr. Amy Acton had faced while she had the job.


Dr. Acton announced her resignation in June after months of House Republicans attempting to curb her power as health director in the middle of a pandemic and hurling anti-Semitic insults at her. Following Dr. Acton’s resignation, Leader Sykes pointed out how we have seen these types of sustained GOP-hate filled attacks before. “Historically, these types of abusive tactics to bully and intimidate have proven to be successful which is why they continue to be used,” Leader Sykes said in June. “And over and over again, good people suffer and are silenced or even forced to resign.”


The resignation of Dr. Duwve only took a matter of hours. Following today’s reports that Dr. Acton’s harassment was the reason Dr. Duwve withdrew her acceptance of the job, Leader Sykes release this statement:


“I don’t know Dr. Duwve personally but I can certainly sympathize with how she felt when she abruptly declined to move back to her home state of Ohio with her family because of the Republican extremists who don’t value public health. Extremists who were likely ready to publicly criticize her job performance and actively seek to get her fired without consideration of intellect or skill, but to promote propaganda and conspiracy theories. For years, Republicans have created an unwelcome environment for women with their abusive legislation and bullying tactics. This is simply the latest and most high profile story we have seen of people being turned away from our state because of it.


House Republicans refuse to see the damage their behavior is inflicting on our state and they refuse to stop. As a pandemic ravages our state, Ohioans are left without a public health leader to guide us because of them.”


Sykes earned a Masters of Public Health from the College of Public Health and Health Professions at the University of Florida.


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COLUMBUS –House Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron) today issued a statement on the 19th anniversary of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States.


“September 11, 2001 is a day that Americans will never forget. On that fateful day, our nation changed forever as we lost nearly 3,000 innocent lives, including 400 first responders,” said Leader Sykes.


“Just as they did on 9/11, first responders have continued to answer our calls during the COVID-19 pandemic. Every day, these brave individuals put their lives on the line to keep our communities healthy and safe. First responders have always been there in our times of need— now it’s time for us to show our appreciation and put their needs first.”


House Democrats have long prioritized bills that would help support first responders. In February 2020, Democrats celebrated the House passage of a measure that would allow first responders diagnosed with work-related PTSD to qualify for BWC compensation and benefits, something Democrats have fought for in recent General Assemblies.


This May, in response to the global pandemic, Rep. Brigid Kelly (D-Cincinnati) introduced House Bill (HB) 605 to give front line workers, including peace officers, fire fighters and emergency medical workers, access to workers’ compensation if they contract COVID-19 while on the job.

 
 
  
 
House Dems Again Try To Repeal HB 6, House GOP Obstruct Continued Efforts
House Dems say Select Committee is an unnecessary stall tactic by House GOP that ultimately hurts Ohioans
September 10, 2020
 
 

COLUMBUS –Today, during the initial meeting of the newly-created Select Committee on Energy Policy and Oversight, House Democrats once again attempted to repeal House Bill (HB) 6, the multi-billion corporate bailout bill at the center of an ongoing FBI criminal investigation into an alleged $60 million racketeering and bribery scheme led by former Republican Speaker Larry Householder. During the meeting, Reps. Michael J. Skindell (D-Lakewood) and Michael O’Brien (D-Warren) offered sponsor testimony on HB 738, their bill to repeal HB 6.


Rep. Skindell also offered sponsor testimony on HB 740 with Rep. Sedrick Denson (D-Cincinnati). That bill repeals a provision in state law allowing First Energy to keep excessive profits rather than returning the money to electric customers through a rate adjustment. 


“House Bill 6 increases costs on Ohio families, puts good energy jobs at risk and was bad policy for Ohio’s energy future,” said Rep. Skindell. “It is often referred to as the worst energy policy legislation passed by any state and is the quintessential example of how a corrupted system can pass legislation that hurts the average working family to benefit large corporations.”


“The confidence and trust of Ohioans cannot be restored until there is a complete and immediate repeal of legislation founded in corruption,” said Rep. O’Brien. “Legislation adopted by means of corruption is itself corrupt.”


Following testimony, Rep. Casey Weinstein (D-Hudson) made a motion to report Republican-sponsored HB 746 – the identical HB 6 repeal bill to Democrats’’ HB 738 – to the House floor for a vote. The motion was ruled to be out of order by Chairman James Hoops (R-Napoleon) and the Republicans on the committee voted to kill the motion, marking the latest attempt by Republicans to block Democratic efforts to repeal HB 6 immediately.


House Democrats have put forth multiple efforts to quickly repeal HB 6 in order to help restore the public’s trust in the legislature, and have called the creation of this Select Committee an unnecessary stall tactic by House Republicans. On Aug. 11, House Democratic leadership, including Minority Leader Emilia Strong Sykes (D-Akron), Assistant Minority Leader Kristin Boggs (D-Columbus), Minority Whip Rep. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo) and Assistant Whip Rep. Richard Brown (D-Canal Winchester) filed a protest of the passage of House Bill 6 due to the serious allegations of bribery and pay-to-pay politics that were involved in the deliberations and passage of the bill.


On Aug. 28, Democrats announced they would file a discharge petition to bring bipartisan legislation to repeal HB 6 to the floor for a vote during session on Sept. 1.  House Republicans aggressively worked to thwart the effort by requiring that signatures be done in person and not electronically like all other legislation in an attempt to keep the bill from being brought to the floor in a timely manner.


Republican attempts to block the repeal of HB 6 came to a head on Sept. 1 when Speaker Robert Cupp (R-Lima) and House Republicans abruptly ended House session as Democrats readied to offer several amendments to repeal HB 6 on the floor. The session ended before making it even halfway through the scheduled calendar—an unprecedented move intended to block Democratic efforts to repeal HB 6.

 
 
  
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Democrats Lament Another Broken Promise By LaRose

 

State Reps. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo) and Catherine D. Ingram (D-Cincinnati) responded to the state Controlling Board refusing to hear Secretary LaRose’s late request for additional authority to pay return postage for absentee ballots in its meeting yesterday. LaRose said he will come back to the Board in mid-September, but absentee ballot applications are set to be mailed to 7.8 Million Ohio voters before that – around Labor Day – without return postage. The members have been urging LaRose for months to use existing authority of his office to pay return postage for both applications and ballots.



 
 

Democrats Urge LaRose To Keep His Word To Ohio Voters

 

State Reps. Paula Hicks-Hudson (D-Toledo) and Bride Rose Sweeney (D-Cleveland) responded to Secretary LaRose’s announcement that he is requesting additional permission from the state Controlling Board to pay return postage for voting materials. The deadline for submitting such requests was Monday, Aug. 17 for the Board’s Aug. 24 meeting. No request from LaRose’s office appears yet on the Controlling Board’s website. It is unclear whether the late request will be added to the meeting agenda or what specifically is being requested.  



 
 

Democrats Unite To Tell LaRose: Do Your Job

 

The House Democratic Caucus today sent a letter to Secretary of State Frank LaRose addressing recent major developments in Ohio’s elections. Last week, the country watched in horror as Post Office mailboxes and processing machinery were dismantled and removed across the country and in Ohio.



 
 

OLBC President Rep. Stephanie Howse Urges Action On Pay Equity On Black Women's Equal Pay Day

 

Ohio Legislative Black Caucus President Rep. Stephanie Howse (D-Cleveland) today urged action on the Ohio Equal Pay Act, legislation alongside Rep. Randi Clites (D-Ravenna) that would recognize the full value and potential of Ohio’s working women.